Professional Jeweler Archive: Investigating Image, Part III

March 2000


Investigating Image, Part III

Do customers feel the same way you do about your store’s decor? Learn how to find out in the third installment of this series on store image

When you spend every day looking at your store’s interior, you may lose sight of how it looks to your customers. Professional Jeweler’s West Coast editor, Jack Heeger, and two pairs of mystery shoppers made this discovery during their visits to Napa Valley Jewelers in Napa, CA.

The visits were part of our research for “Do Customers See What You Want Them to See When They Walk into Your Store?” a seminar presented at Professional Jeweler’s PrimeTime Fall Marketplace & Conference in Las Vegas in October. Our staff interviewed jewelers about the messages they tried to convey through store design and service, then determined how successful they are based on the mystery shoppers’ reaction.

Down to Earth

Napa Valley Jewelers is located in an outdoor shopping center in downtown Napa, a city several miles from the famous California wine country. The store sits across from the Napa Valley Visitors Center, resulting in some tourist shoppers.

Because he relies so much on walk-in traffic, owner Kent Gardella puts a great deal of effort into his store’s exterior, especially his windows. He uses humorous, catchy props to capture the interest of passersby. Customers often comment on the displays and occasionally buy products right out of the windows. He uses black granite and brass trim to connote better-quality merchandise, but he leaves his front door open when weather permits to make the store inviting.

Even with this gesture, he worries about seeming prohibitively expensive. He and his staff dress in casual clothes, normal in an area where men rarely wear ties to work. Gardella also plays soft guitar or piano music because he dislikes quiet stores.

When we interviewed him before visiting the store, Gardella felt his interior looked dated. He said he wanted to paint the dark wood showcases a lighter color and considered acid-washing the brass strips on the ceiling to make them less shiny.

The store specializes in gold jewelry, which Gardella puts in the front showcase along with grapevine-themed jewelry that’s popular among tourists. He also carries bridal sets and colored gemstone jewelry and dedicates an entire showcase to opals. He targets shoppers ages 30 to 50, though his bridal sets attract younger customers. He says he doesn’t get many older customers, most of whom already have the type of jewelry he offers.

Difference of Opinion

We sent two couples to visit Napa Valley Jewelers – one couple in their 40s and another couple in their 70s, both well-traveled and familiar with the wine country “scene.”

Not only did the couples form almost identical impressions of the store, they weren’t at all bothered by what made Gardella uneasy about the store’s interior. In fact they liked many of the touches Gardella wanted to change. The younger couple said the brass trim communicated the store is classy and upscale. They were so caught up looking at the jewelry they didn’t notice the dark display cases – they even called the store “modern-looking.”

The couples agreed the store, inside and out, was attractive, inviting and expressive of fine quality without seeming unapproachable or too expensive. The humorous windows caught the attention of the men, who said they weren’t too interested in the store until they saw a display comparing the sizes of men’s and women’s brains.

Both couples appreciated the organization of products and the flow of the store’s floor plan. They commented on the supply of opals and spice pearls, which the salesperson romanced by telling stories and showing pieces of rough opal.

The salespeople greeted both couples and gave them professional, enthusiastic service and information about products without getting too technical. The older couple noticed the store’s repair shop right away and said it communicated an excellent service policy.

That two couples in two categories of the store’s customer base had the same impressions demonstrates that it sends the intended message, even if the owner feels the interior needs an update. If you’re thinking about remodeling your own store, it’s a good idea to conduct a similar study first to find what customers like and dislike about your store. Otherwise, you may change something that really works.

– by Stacey King and Robert Weldon, G.G.

Out of Sight

There’s more to store image than meets the eye: sound, smell, taste and touch create an overall impression for customers. Here are some observations from our mystery shopping experiment, followed by questions (in italics) to ask yourself about your store.

Jewelers differ in their feelings about in-store sound – some play music, others like quiet. Customers usually don’t notice whether music is playing, but background noise contributes to how they feel about the store’s atmosphere.

What feeling are you trying to create – casual, distinguished or a combination of the two? How can music, or the lack thereof, contribute to that feeling?

Business activity can distract shoppers. In a store with centrally located phones, one shopper was more interested in the phone conversations than the jewelry.

Do phones, fax machines, humming lights or street noise contribute to a noisy environment? Can you eliminate some sounds by moving equipment or using partitions to muffle them? Do you use sound-absorbing ceiling panels or thick carpet to alter acoustics?

Giving customers tasty treats helps them associate their visit to your store with a pleasant experience. One jeweler places his “trademark” jellybeans in bowls around his store, while another incorporates a cappuccino bar.

What do you offer customers to appeal to their sense of taste? Is there an opportunity to serve coffee, soft drinks or treats during a routine visit, while sitting to explain diamond quality or while customers wait for repairs?

– S.K.

To attract tourists on the way to wine country, Napa Valley Jewelers uses black granite and brass trim outside the store to convey a sense of quality.
Mystery shoppers didn’t notice the giftware department, even though it took up a whole wall, because they were too busy looking at the jewelry. They did find the brass trim to be “classy,” despite owner Kent Gardella’s desire to change it.
Though Gardella wanted to paint the wood showcases a lighter color for a more contemporary look, the mystery shoppers thought the store was “modern-looking.”
The photos above are examples of humorous windows that stop people in their tracks. At left, a snake charmer coaxes a serpent of spice pearls from its basket. At right, a window shows a male brain and female brain and the aphrodisiacs that excite each – a bottle of Viagra for the man, a gemstone ring for the woman.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications